Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chicago Red Light Cameras May Assist Bicyclists After Intersection Crashes

One of the more challenging aspects of representing injured bicyclists is finding a witness to corroborate the facts.  Sometimes good witnesses just do not exist.  Bystanders -- if there were any -- often end up admitting that they did not actually see the crash, and only turned to look when they heard the collision.  If the incident involved a motor vehicle, passengers of the vehicle are rarely helpful witnesses for the bicyclist.  There is one tool, however, that attorneys may use to overcome the "he said, he said" conundrum, at least in cases involving Chicago intersection crashes: red-light traffic camera video.  According to the Chicago Department of Transportation there are red-light cameras located at 190 intersections in the city.  Here's how they work:
The digital cameras are tied into the traffic signal system and sensors beneath the pavement, just before the white stop bar.  The cameras are triggered by a vehicle passing over the sensors only after the light turns red.  The cameras take still and video pictures of the rear of a vehicle, including the license plate. . .  The images receive an initial review by the camera venter to make sure the image quality is sufficient.  The images are then forwarded to the city's Department of Revenue for review and processing.  Citations are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle shown in the pictures.  Any motorist who receives a red-light camera ticket can review a video of their red-light violation on the city's web site:
Of course there are a lot of "ifs" involved in determining whether photos and video was taken of the bike vs. car incident under investigation.  Images may exist if (1) the crash took place at a Chicago intersection (2) with a red-light camera in place (3) where the crash was caused by a motorist's red light violation.  CDOT has created a website containing a map with an overlay depicting intersections with the cameras.  If the right circumstances exist, the bicyclist's attorney should subpoena a copy of the video and still photographs.  Pre-suit  the attorney should consider bringing a petition seeking entry of a protective order to preserve a copy of the images.  If video of the incident exists it may make all the difference in the outcome of the cyclist's case.

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